Palmer Mill Decommissioned Roads

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Palmer Mill Decommissioned Roads

Post by arlohike » February 8th, 2021, 3:00 pm

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The dashed and penciled-in lines on this map are some old roads I used to enjoy hiking around the Devil’s Rest / Palmer Mill area. I used to regularly make a big loop around Devil’s Rest starting from Foxglove, then continuing south on the unnamed road (A) to Palmer Mill Road, turning east to Multnomah Basin Road and returning via the Devil’s Rest Trail cutoff, but I only did the east/west road (B) between the Multnomah Basin Road and road A once or twice. I remember that as having some wide, garbage-strewn sections, as with much of the Bridal Veil Plateau, but also some pretty sections with a faint, mossy path.

While on the Foxglove a few weeks ago, I noticed flagging on that A road, and started wondering what’s happening with those routes these days. I knew the roads were deliberately destroyed after the Eagle Creek fire, but I hoped the faint sections of road B were untouched. Yesterday I went up to check it out.

From Multnomah Falls, I went over to Wahkeena, up to the Devil’s Rest Trail and over to the Multnomah Basin Road. I walked past the B junction to the Palmer Mill junction just to check that out, and it looked the same as I’d seen it before … big rocks, felled trees and pits where the road used to be. I possibly saw a user path along the edge of the carnage, but that wasn’t my main interest, so I went back to the B junction to get started.

That junction was flagged and I hoped for a user path through the trees beside the road, but after three flags marked “Start 1,” “Start 2” and “Start 3,” there was nothing. I alternated between climbing over the felled trees in the road and dodging brush beside the road for a quarter mile, and then as I had hoped, the deliberate destruction faded and the road became more walkable. Before long I reached a clearing filled with messy underbrush, a truck tire and what appeared to be a wide road headed north, which I assumed was C on the map. I couldn’t see anything straight ahead, so I thought this might be where my pretty but faint section began, and started looking around the woods for a sign of it. I couldn’t find anything, so I headed in the direction of where I thought the path should be, hoping to eventually catch sight of it. There was hardly any underbrush in this area and the woods were easy to walk through. Eventually I saw a clearing to my right, headed over to check it out, and found another wide, destroyed road. Looking at my GPS track later, I had ended up veering too far south when looking for my faint path, because I was looking for something that was roughly 90 degrees to the left of what I thought was road C heading north. But in retrospect, what seemed like a distinct right turn in that messy area must have been a slighter bend to the right and simply the continuation of road B, which I should have stayed on.

In any case, I continued on or beside that road, which had gotten pretty messy again, until I reached what seemed to be the expected junction with road A, and turned right toward Foxglove. I couldn’t see anything of the old road heading south, which I had taken many times in the past, but the section heading north was relatively clean and walkable, and after a while I saw a few flags, so I figured I was getting close to the Foxglove junction. But just as I was shifting into cruise control, something told me to check my compass. I did, and realized I was now heading southwest instead of northwest. After thinking this over for a few minutes, I turned around and there was a flag, showing an almost imperceptible route to my right, in exactly the direction I needed to go. I followed that and it ended up being the worst section of the day, with fallen or felled trees that contained a lot of messy branches to crawl through, and too much underbrush beside the road to go around. But this section was regularly flagged, and it took me to the Foxglove junction as expected.

In retrospect, I must have made the same mistake regarding the junction to road A as I had back at the supposed junction to road C: interpreting a right bend in the road as a junction with another road to the right. So when I thought I had turned onto road A, I was actually still on road B and still needed to be watching for the actual junction with road A. This explains why I couldn’t detect road A continuing south at the place that I thought was the junction.

In conclusion:

- There are no pretty, untouched sections of Road B left, but some of it is decently walkable. The worst parts of this route are road B at at its east end, and road A north of the road B junction.

- Based on my experiences before 2017, I had thought of the north/south road between Foxglove and Smith Road as a primary, distinct route and the east-west road between that road and Multnomah Basin Road as a secondary, faint route. Now, it seems that road B and the bottom half of road A have been carved out as a primary, distinct route, leaving the top half of road A as a secondary route. Whether because my memories are inaccurate or because the character of the route was actually changed by the post-2017 management operations, this contributed to my disorientation. Anyway, I would now consider the road below the A/B junction as a continuation of road B instead of a continuation of road A.

- Now I’m curious what happens to that road B as it continues southwest past the road A junction. I assume it goes as far as the Smith Road junction, and then does it continue plowing down Smith Road, making a continuous cut from Multnomah Basin Road all the way to Palmer Mill Road near its west gate? And from that Smith Road junction was another pretty, faint path heading southeast to Palmer Mill Road. What happened to that? Unfortunately, what's left of Palmer Mill Road doesn’t look enjoyable at all, so the lack of a loop option makes that exploration seem less rewarding. But I could at least check it out from the Smith Road junction if I end up exploring the rest of road B in that direction.
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A bad section of road B
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A good section of road B
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A bad section of road A
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A good section of road A, with flags
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A tire at what I thought was a right turn onto road C
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An old car sun visor, just the kind of weird relic I've been missing on my hikes ;-)
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Back onto the Foxglove and relative ease
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The big loop I used to make; this is from 2016
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The shorter loop as I attempted it yesterday
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Chip Down
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Re: Palmer Mill Decommissioned Roads

Post by Chip Down » February 8th, 2021, 6:51 pm

I was aware of some decommissioned roads in the area, but was surprised to find Palmer Mill is a dead end now. Went up that road for the first time about a week ago. Yeah, finally was on the top of my to-do list after all these years.

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